Among Zanzibar's most famous exports are the ancient intricately-carved Arab chests -- relics of the island's Arab heritage.
Among Zanzibar's most famous exports are the ancient intricately-carved Arab chests -- relics of the island's Arab heritage. A genuine Arab chest can cost hundreds of Pounds Sterling, but there are not many around now. Instead, enterprising merchants in Zanzibar Town have begun to manufacture new "old" chests.
The craftsmen making the chests use old wood, often found in deserted Arab houses, which they make into a plain box. An expert carves intricate patterns on the top of the box and another cuts out patterns from brass strips which are then hammered into the side of the chest.
Additional designs are hammered out of copper for many of the chests.
Tourists pay as much as 50 Pounds Sterling for one of the new chests which provide a useful revenue for the island, which still relies on its clove crop for foreign exchange. The chests are sold in curio shops along with old Arab coffee pots, silver jewellery and carved ornaments.
Tourism, a facet of Zanzibar's current policy of self-reliance, promises to supply much needed foreign exchange to the island. The official tourist organisation, the Friendship Tourist Bureau, looks after all visitors. The organisation's taxis take tourists round the island to sites of old Arab palaces, to the harbour -- full of fishing dhows -- and to clove and palm plantations outside the town.